In every known society, the male’s need for achievement can be recognized. Men may cook or weave or dress dolls or hunt humming birds, but if such activities are appropriate occupations of men, then the whole society, men and women alike, votes them as important. When the same occupations are performed by women, they are regarded as less important. In a great number of human societies, men’s sureness of their sex role is tied up with their right, or ability, to practice some activity that women are not allowed to practice.” – Margaret Mead in “Male and Female.”
Sex discrimination and antiwomen attitudes are still prevalent today on work sites, despite the fact that sex discrimination is illegal. Discrimination and harassment are oftentimes the very reasons tradeswomen leave the industry and why young women choose not to pursue a career in the trades. Still, women want to work in nontraditional fields. Why? Better pay, established career paths and advancement, freedom, higher job satisfaction and women are good at it. Working women concur that it is very important to have stronger laws challenging discrimination and unfair treatment on the job. Women entering the nontraditional careers may need additional training and mentoring. Oftentimes, women are not knowledgeable of the careers available; this information is usually not advertised in the newspapers or in employment centers.
With all the issues facing our work force from war to loss of jobs, have we grown less sensitive to the needs of our entire work force? The Department of Labor says we will need to fill 240,000 construction-related positions per year for several years to come. Yet we continue to take a reliable resource in the female population and diminish the value they represent. We continue to harbor age-old myths like: “Construction is a man’s world,” “Women on the job site are a lawsuit waiting to happen,” and “We talk like that all the time, we were just kidding, other women don’t mind it.”
Bad for business
Sexual harassment is not just against the law, but it is bad for business. Harassment hurts the bottom line, employee morale and the entire industry. It only takes a few simple steps to prevent sexual harassment on job sites and shop floors.
Women support families and morale degradation harms families. Nearly half of working women have been out of work in the past year, while statistics show that 58 percent of working women with children earn half or more of their families’ incomes. Women in Wisconsin have a median annual earnings of $28,100 compared to Wisconsin men earning $39,500. Equal pay is not just a women’s issue, it is a family issue. When women get equal pay, family incomes rise and fewer families are in poverty. And still we banter with issues of job-site harassment and sexual discrimination. Is it not time to stop the madness and work together to stop good-paying Wisconsin jobs from leaving the state for lower-pay replacements?
The world is well on its way through the 2000s, and we have discovered that women and men can work side by side, women and men can perform the same job, women and men can excel in a construction career. Our focus needs to be on keeping discrimination-free jobs in Wisconsin, good-paying jobs where men and women can support their families and make a contribution to the betterment of society. Traditionalists need to know the trades for women and by women are here, and, there is a place for us here in the world we share.
Pam Hyps is a board member of the Milwaukee chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction; the opinions expressed in this personal column are not necessarily shared by NAWIC. http://www.nawic.org Pam Hyps,